If baseball teams need pitching to contend then the Brainerd Warriors appear to have enough arms to pursue conference and section titles this spring.
Four senior pitchers return from last season's 21-5 team that lost in the North Subsection final to Bemidji. Two other seniors and junior are expected to be in the mix to gobble up innings.
Seniors Trevor Thompson, Nick Rardin, Nick Anderson and Ethan Branum were members of the 2007 staff. Seniors Josh Haberman and Billy Sather are projected to join the senior foursome on the mound.
Head coach: Lowell Scearcy, 39th year (3 at Verndale, 36 at Brainerd)
Career record: 586-237 (.712)
Record at Brainerd: 548-229 (.705)
2007 record: 12-2 CLC, 21-5 overall.
Returning starters: Nick Anderson, Tyler Jensen, Kyle Schaible, Bronson Shepherd, Trevor Thompson, Nate Smolke.
Assistant coaches: Keith Peterson, Al Balsley, Jay Sannes, Matt Aberle.
3 - BEMIDJI, 5 p.m.
8 - SAUK RAPIDS, 5 p.m.
10 - WILLMAR, 5 p.m.
15 - at Fergus Falls, 5 p.m.
17 - SARTELL, 5 p.m.
21 - at Moorhead, 5 p.m.
22 - at St. Cloud Tech, 5 p.m.
24 - at Rocori, 5 p.m.
29 - at Little Falls, 4 p.m. (2)
1 - at St. Cloud Apollo, 7 p.m.
2 - at Princeton Inv., 5:45 p.m.
3 - at Princeton Inv., 11:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.
6 - ALEXANDRIA, 4 p.m. (2)
8 - FERGUS FALLS, 5 p.m.
9 - at Grand Rapids, 4:30 p.m.
13 - at Willmar, 5 p.m.
20 - at Sauk Rapids, 5 p.m.
"Pitching should be a strength for us because, due to injury and some other situations, these guys pitched quite a bit last year," Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said. "Trevor had a great year and Nick Anderson and Nick Rardin pitched quite a bit. Nick Anderson had a little bit of a shoulder problem, which kept him from pitching even more. Ethan also pitched quite a bit. They give us four experienced varsity pitchers.
"Haberman and Sather are also throwing well, so we've got six senior pitchers, along with junior Dan Bendzick. We will be picking our varsity pitchers from those seven guys."
Thompson, an all-conference player, was 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA. Rardin was 3-0 with a 5.38 ERA, Anderson 3-1 and 3.18 and Branum 2-1 and 4.79. Sather, Haberman and Bendzick have yet to throw a varsity inning.
At the plate, Brainerd returns three of its top six hitters.
Right fielder Bronson Shepherd hit .396 with 10 RBIs, two doubles and two home runs. Thompson batted .381 with 20 RBIs, three doubles, a triple and home run. Junior all-conference catcher Nate Smolke hit .359 with 22 RBIs, nine doubles and four home runs.
"We do have a good share of our top hitters back and we hope they continue to improve," Scearcy said. "Those three guys had excellent years and if they even duplicate those years we'll be fine. Plus, we're expecting that some of our younger guys will pick up a lot of slack."
Shepherd and Thompson are testaments to the Warriors' junior varsity program.
"Bronson is a kid who kind of came out of nowhere," Scearcy said. "That's one reason why we feel our JV is so important. I believe Bronson played three to four games with the JV. When he got into the lineup for the varsity he hit so well he stayed there all year long and played right field.
"Trevor pitched a couple games for the JV early. When we got him in the varsity lineup he hit almost .400 and was our leading pitcher."
Letterwinners returning for the Brainerd Warriors baseball team include Nick Rardin (left), Alex Korte, Kyle Schaible, Trevor Thompson, Nick Anderson, Nate Smolke, Bronson Shepherd, Ethan Branum and Tyler Jensen. Brainerd is scheduled to open at home Thursday against Bemidji.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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Shepherd, Thompson, Anderson and Smolke are four of six full- or part-time starters returning. Senior infielder Tyler Jensen, who may also play outfield or be the designated hitter, and senior shortstop Kyle Schaible, are the other returning starters.
Jensen, recovering from a serious head injury suffered in football in October, batted .318 last season with 15 RBIs and two doubles. Schaible hit .267 in 15 at bats with four RBIs.
Defensively, Smolke directs the Warriors from behind the plate.
"For a sophomore last year Nate did an excellent job," Scearcy said. "He's a little bit stronger this year. I would expect he will continue to get better and better."
At first base Scearcy considers Branum and junior Cody Stange the leading candidates.
In the running to play second base are Jensen, Haberman, junior Robbie Veith and sophomore Kyle Crocker.
Schaible will play short. Thompson, Rardin and junior Travis Whirley are in the mix to play third base.
Outfield candidates include Shepherd, junior Desmond Janousek, Nick Anderson, senior Alex Korte, Jensen and Rardin.
Seniors: A.J. Alters, 3b; Nick Anderson, p, of; Ethan Branum p, 1b; Josh Haberman, p, of; Tyler Jensen, 2b, of; Alex Korte, of; Matt Lambrecht, c; Nick Rardin p, 3b; Billy Sather p, of; Kyle Schaible ss; Bronson Shepherd of; Trevor Thompson p, 3b.
Juniors: Tyler Alters of; Dan Bendzick p, 3b; Michael Brekken of; Jake Caughey if; Kenneth Ebinger c; Ryan Elyea of; Cody Galloway p, of; Seth Helland p, of; Trevor Howard p, of; Desmond Janousek of; Brandon Shaw, of; Nate Smolke c; Cody Stange 1b; Josh Tokarczyk c, if; Rob Veith 2b; Zach Voels p, of; Travis Whirley p, 3b.
Sophomore: Kyle Crocker 2b, ss.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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